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Ecce libri cum picturis: The Bounce #1 and Sex #3

05-23-2013 04;26;16PM

“Slip and slide in your wet delight, feel the blood flow / Not too fast, don’t be slow, my love’s in your hands”

Joe Casey has two comicbooks out this week, and I figured it would be a good time to check them out. One, of course, is on its third issue, but that’s the way it is, innit?

Sex3

Sex #3 is by Mr. Casey, who wrote it, Piotr Kowalski, who drew it, Nate Simpson, who colored it, and Rus Wooton, who lettered it.

First, obviously, is that wonderful cover. It’s a wraparound one, so here’s the complete one:

05-22-2013 03;41;12PMSex3

It’s pretty keen, ain’t it? The overlapping letters, with the middle bar of the “E” intersecting the diagonal stroke of the “X” put us quickly in mind of intercourse, which of course is kind of the point. The red-drenched cover is wonderfully evocative; red is the “hottest” color and also puts us in mind of sweaty, sticky, nasty stuff. 05-23-2013 03;52;49PMThe “X” is encompassing Annabelle LaGravenese, focusing our eyes inward to the empty space right next to her, and her presence on the right side of the cover and the blue column on the left balances the drawing nicely. The right side of the “X” describes the flow of her body, too, leading us down to the title of the book with a pitstop at the gas mask. Why a gas mask? Beats me – it doesn’t come up in this issue. She’s toasting, as we can see, but Kowalski balances that with the empty space on the left side of the wraparound cover, implying that she wants someone to be there but that someone is missing (which is in the issue, too). The red negative space of her dress is amazing, making her both sexier and more ethereal, and Kowalski gives her just enough lift on her hair to imply a breeze blowing through the room, which makes it a bit more wistful and romantic. It’s a tremendous cover.

The actual story is called “Foreplay/Long Time,” which is clever because it fits the issue but is also the name of a famous Boston song, so kudos to Mr. Casey. Pop culture callbacks occasionally feel forced, but this one doesn’t. The issue features what we’ve come to expect from Sex after two issues – Simon Cooke, retired superhero, is trying to fit in as CEO of his company, but he doesn’t seem really engaged (Casey uses the word “disinterested,” but as an extremely annoying English major, I’d like to point out the word he wants is “uninterested” – yes, there is a difference) and people aren’t happy about it. He continues to flash back to his time as a superhero, as the woman – Quinn – who used to tend to his wounds sounds a lot like the woman – Larry – who works with him in his company and isn’t happy about how he’s running it. 05-23-2013 04;00;02PMLater, he talks to Warren, his lawyer, and he gets around to what many superheroes seem to feel – that “Simon Cooke” is the mask and the superhero identity – in this case, the Armored Saint – is the real person. Warren seems to take this as a massive insult, but it gets back to Cooke’s feelings about being a superhero and how he hasn’t gotten the itch out of his system. He still wants to “save” the city, but he’s unsure how to go about that. It’s hard to get a sense of what Casey is going for here – this is pretty standard stuff when it comes to superheroes, and it’s not really clear yet what Casey is trying to do. Simon Cooke is kind of a boring character so far, so it’s not easy to get into his problems. Casey does make an interesting point when Warren tells Simon, “You can just, I dunno, pick up where you left off,” because Simon points out that he never really got started – his childhood was cut short and he became a hero, which precluded a “normal” life. The idea of someone trying to live a “normal” life when they don’t know how is not a bad theme to work with, and Casey’s smart enough to pull it off, but he’s taking his time getting there, and Cooke is still not a great character yet.

Casey is stirring the plot in other places, too. The mysterious dude, Keenan, has an iPad with some “valuable information” on it, so he obviously has plans to get rich quick. Dolph and Cha Cha, the two odd criminals we’ve seen in the first two issues, punish the person who allowed Keenan to steal the “information,” and they’re fairly typical Casey characters in that they’re far more concerned with outward appearances than your usual bad guys. And Casey checks in on the “Old Man,” the cranky old gangster who loves the fact that Simon Cooke is no longer patrolling the streets. The Old Man does some evil gangster things, and it’s obvious that Casey is just setting up some stories at this point.

But what about the sex, man! The book is called SEX, for crying out loud! Well, Keenan does the nasty with his girl, and later, Annabelle masturbates with a sex toy while Simon is talking to Warren (in a different location – the panels cut back and forth). 05-23-2013 04;02;05PMInterspersed with that is Simon flashing back to fighting her in her villain garb when he was a superhero, and Casey is not terribly subtle about the whole thing (apparently neither Simon nor Annabelle has found anything equal to the sexual thrill of the superhero chase). But that’s okay. So far the sex part of the book is the least interesting part of the book, because it seems like Casey is simply saying, “Hey, people have sex. Here they are!” I mean, that’s fine and all, but it’s not really that interesting – we kind of inherently know that about characters in fiction unless we’re specifically told they’re not. I mean, we can even figure out that Bruce Wayne gets busy every once in a while, but he does seem like a sexual camel on occasion. So the fact that Sex is about, well, sex doesn’t necessarily make it something, you know, good. Casey himself has drenched a lot of his superhero work in sex – both explicit and implicit – for years, so it’s not like he’s doing something radical even for him. So Sex remains a bit of an enigma on the story side, because it’s unclear what Casey is going for.

Kowalski and Simpson, however, are doing a fine job. Kowalski is a solid artist, and he’s asked to draw a lot of detailed work, and he’s certainly up to it. He’s at home in the corporate offices of The Cooke Company, and he’s shown that he could handle the superhero action that will presumably occur at some point in this book (whether because Cooke goes back to it or because we see more of it in flashback). 05-23-2013 04;04;35PMHe draws the Alpha Brothers well, too – they’re described as “ambiguous” in the roster at the beginning of the book, and Kowalski is good at their “look” and their body language to make them just that – they’re obviously tough guys, but they take care of their appearance and their clothing. Kowalski also draws good O-faces, which I suppose is important in a book like this. Simpson, meanwhile, is still doing a very nice job on the coloring of the book. He uses red and blue to good effect, linking the heat of anger on Larry’s face when she yells at Cooke to the sex act, using red in both instances. It’s not that subtle, but it’s still appreciated. Of course, when Simon and Warren are talking, he uses blue to show their cooling relationship and also to offset the red he uses as Annabelle masturbates. The very idea of using more primary colors for the book helps the “unreality” of it stand out a bit more, as Casey is contrasting the “realistic” take on superheroes that we often see with the more reasonable idea that they’re pretty fantastical. Even when Cooke is doing something mundane like sitting in a board meeting, Simpson makes sure to get the tone right and keep it from being too “realistic.” I still don’t like Rus Wooton’s letters, but they also contribute to the tone of the book, which is why, I assume, he does them the way he does.

So Sex hasn’t quite clicked yet, but I have grown to trust Casey, so I’m on board for a while. Whether the book gets better … well, I’ll just have to wait and see.

Bounce1

Meanwhile, Casey’s other superhero comic, The Bounce, shipped its first issue this week. David Messina draws and is the “color supervisor” on this book, Giovanna Niro is the colorist, and Rus Wooton once again letters it. 05-23-2013 04;06;57PMIn this issue, we’re introduced to Jasper Jenkins, a pot-smoking slacker (the first page, in fact, shows him lighting a bong) who’s hanging out watching television. His friend, Terry, shows up and tells him he’s wasting his life, but then he indulges too, and while he’s sucking down some smoke, Jasper disappears. What happened to him? Well, he saw a story on the news (the television watching was important!) about the police chief and his family being held hostage, and Jasper is … a superhero! He’s the dude on the cover, who may or may not be called The Bounce – he never uses a superhero name in the book, but he does bounce around, so that’s apparently his superpower. He fights the bad guy, The Crunch, but the bad guy kills the police chief and so the cops aren’t sure that Jasper is really a good guy. The classic superhero dilemma! Then the book gets weird.

You see, Casey introduces a dude named The Darling, who eats small lizards (?) and has built some bizarre machine that he claims will revolutionize warfare, so he’s selling it to some shady military types. Then Jasper meets a strange drug dealer at a club who somehow transports him … someplace. Someplace with a lot of superheroes and Benday dots. And some dude who seems to know Jasper. It’s all very odd. But it’s not a bad way to begin a series, because Casey just chucks us right in – I mean, Jasper is already a superhero, so we don’t have to page through an origin story, and there are enough oddball elements that Casey is right at home with. Casey is good at concepts, and The Bounce is full of them, but he’s also able to sketch a character pretty well in short, broad strokes. 05-23-2013 04;09;01PMJasper and the others don’t have a ton of depth after just 20 pages, but that’s okay – the bare bones are there, and Casey’s usually pretty good about adding flesh.

Messina and Niro do a fine job with the artwork – it’s kind of a bit of Terry Dodson, which is never a bad thing in my opinion. The digital coloring, with its shading rather than stark contrast, is never – probably – going to be my cup of tea, but Niro uses both techniques enough to show some nice contrast, and the scene in the club at the end as Jasper slips someplace else is very nice, as the colors work well with the strong pencils. Messina has some nice design work when whatever happens to Jasper happens, and his brief fight with The Crunch is done well, too. There are a lot of white guys in the book, and Messina isn’t great at making them look all that different, but they tend to have different hair styles, so maybe that will work. I’m going to imagine that the style of art in the main part of the book will be contrasted with wherever Jasper ends up, as it looks slightly harder-edged than Jasper’s point of origin, but we’ll see about that later.

Both Sex and The Bounce are $2.99, and they’re both available now. Well, they’re available in print editions – who knows what’s going on with ComiXology and Apple these days, but I guess you can get them digitally as well!

Rating (Sex #3): ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Rating (The Bounce #1): ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

14 Comments

Love your articles, Greg! Knowing you don’t do them as often as you used to be, it’s a breath of fresh air when I see you’ve got a review up. Also quite glad that you thoroughly enjoyed these books because I sure hope I do!

As I said on the CBR Image forum, the Bounce’s story was okay, and interesting enough that I’ll read the next issue (for the reasons you mention), but I’m kind of disappointed that the new Spider-Man for the 21st century (as he’s been advertised in interviews) appears to be yet another straight white guy from an affluent background.

Merriam-Webster

May 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm

dis·in·ter·est·ed
adjective
1
a :not having the mind or feelings engaged :not interested
b :no longer interested
2
:free from selfish motive or interest :unbiased

Usage Discussion of DISINTERESTED
Disinterested and uninterested have a tangled history. Uninterested originally meant impartial, but this sense fell into disuse during the 18th century. About the same time the original sense of disinterested also disappeared, with uninterested developing a new sense—the present meaning—to take its place. The original sense of uninterested is still out of use, but the original sense of disinterested revived in the early 20th century. The revival has since been under frequent attack as an illiteracy and a blurring or loss of a useful distinction. Actual usage shows otherwise. Sense 2 of disinterested is still its most frequent sense, especially in edited prose; it shows no sign of vanishing. A careful writer may choose sense 1a of disinterested in preference to uninterested for emphasis.

Further, disinterested has developed a sense (1b), perhaps influenced by sense 1 of the prefix dis-, that contrasts with uninterested.

Still, use of senses 1a and 1b will incur the disapproval of some who may not fully appreciate the history of this word or the subtleties of its present use.

” … yet another straight white guy from an affluent background.”

THE HORROR!

Note; I said “kind of disappointed”.

Did you review the first issue of Dream Thief? I’d like to know what you thought about it. I found it to be an amazing debut.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 24, 2013 at 5:24 am

Mr. Burgas, do you remember all those times where I kept bringing up the mention of you-know-whose-Marvel-Omnibus-of-the-Marvel-superhero/family/group in that monthly blog you occasionally write about 10-12 times a year?

Well, it’s been listed under “marvel omnibus” in wikipedia, and amazon.com, so I’d expect that it might be listed in that monthly catalog you absorb with a magnifying glass (or something), maybe in the June issue. The said item is allegedly to be sold in DECember of 2013 just in time for SEX-mas (sorry that X-mas).

Speaking of which, I bought SEX with my hard earned money, so maybe I’ll enjoy it. or not. We’ll see. ;-)

The BOUNCE will be on the fence for now. But hey, it’s Casey, so I’ll probably get it while I’m waiting for GODLAND # 37. (any idea when it’s out?)

I can’t help it, but both books are very unappealing to me. I know Casey is lauded everywhere and I haven’t really read any of his old stuff, but judging from these books I’m not really interested. I also get the feeling that both issues are judged here more based on Casey’s reputation than on their own merit. Which is too bad, since you normally write such good reviews (but I noticed something similar with Layman’s Detective Comics).

Merriam-Webster: Well, you have a better dictionary than I do!

Pedro: No, I didn’t read Dream Thief. It just didn’t seem that appealing to me. I’ve read some mixed reviews for it – I think I saw a copy at the comics store, so maybe I’ll have to give it a look-through.

Tom: I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it! And no, I don’t know when Godland is coming out. If I go to San Diego this year and it hasn’t come out yet, I’ll ask Casey about it.

ishmaelbbc: I don’t think Casey is lauded everywhere, but there’s no reason to be slightly apologetic for not liking his stuff. You’ll notice I didn’t give either of these issues sparkling reviews, because I do think that Casey needs to do some work with them. You’re right, though – the reason I’ll give them some time is because of Casey’s track record, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, especially because I mention that in the review. I think we all do that – if you like an author or a band or a director, you might keep getting their stuff even though they’ve lost a bit, because you know they can do better. I know Casey is a good writer, so I just assume that these comics will be good eventually, and I’m willing to wait. And it’s not like they’re terrible, just a bit off right now. I did the same thing with Detective Comics, and I think I was pretty up front with it – I liked the first few issues but didn’t love them, but I think it’s gotten a lot better, and I was willing to be patient because I like Layman’s writing.

I think I did a good enough job discussing the merits of each issue while also pointing out that I expect them to be good, but if you didn’t, such is life. That’s the cool thing about opinions! :)

Travis Pelkie

May 26, 2013 at 3:51 am

About SEX:

Obviously this is Casey’s take on Batman (or A take on Batman, to be fair), and it shows that Bruce Wayne is wacked out and a growth-stunted human being. To me, the CEO stuff is showing that in the real world, someone like this, who’s fighting crime and focused on that stuff to the detriment of business concerns would be a terrible CEO and his business would quickly get run into the ground.

I read it that Keenan was Simon’s Robin, if you will, but I could be reading too much into it.

” the “Old Man,” the cranky old gangster who loves the fact that Simon Cooke is no longer patrolling the streets”

Well…no, actually. He says in issue 1 or 2 that because Simon is gone, he’s not the automatic “archenemy”, so now he’s got to prove himself as the king of the bad guys to others (like the ambiguous duo). Which requires some work. NO!

“Interspersed with that is Simon flashing back to fighting her in her villain garb when he was a superhero” — I read it more as Annabelle’s masturbation fantasy — she’s just seen Simon again, and the “thrill of the chase” memories have got her going. I mean, it’s likely that, because of the magic of comics, we can see the scene of the chase and it’s the memory/fantasy of BOTH of them, but I read it as primarily her memory.

“The very idea of using more primary colors for the book helps the “unreality” of it” — that, and the fact that early superheroes were primary colored (although not so much in Batman’s case) and Casey’s playing with archetypes here.

But where I take biggest issue with what you wrote versus what it appears is what Casey’s going for here:

“we kind of inherently know that about characters in fiction unless we’re specifically told they’re not. I mean, we can even figure out that Bruce Wayne gets busy every once in a while”

Well, no. If I’m reading this book right, Casey’s saying that this character (and perhaps many/most superheroes) is not having normal sexual relations. He’s subsumed that desire into a superhero beat-’em-up lifestyle, and he doesn’t (can’t?) have a real sexual relationship. He doesn’t even masturbate, from the scene in the first issue. He’s…damaged, perhaps, and this seems to also be a broader theme/metacommentary (from some bits in the backmatter) — if you’re still reading superhero comics, particularly ones that were created as children’s literature 75 years ago, there might be something off with you.

(Mind you, since he’s playing with the Batman/Catwoman dynamic, we should remember that in that Batman 1 story, there’s a hint that Batman lets Catwoman get away at the end BECAUSE he likes her woman parts et al, and his conversation with Robin suggests a “the men know but the little boys don’t understand” attitude.)

As for the Bounce:

In your synopsis of the issue, I think you left out a small but important bit. The bad guy takes off, and the cops encounter only the Bounce (iirc), which is why the cops aren’t sure if the Bounce is a good guy.

The Darling is creating a machine that will pierce the veil between dimensions, I think. Which will probably tie in with the trip the Bounce is on.

As to the “white guy syndrome” here, I wonder if Casey will be making a point of that. One thing I noticed was the DA assigned to go after the cop killer (who is presumably the Bounce’s dad, based on his name) had the bottle of Vicodin, and I’m wondering if an element to the book will be the “you’re a pothead! It’s illegal!” “but you’re hooked on drugs too, so what if yours is legal!” argument. Tied in with that, I wonder if the notion that white boy pot smokers tend not to go to jail as much/for as long as non-white boy, non-pot drug offenders will play a role in the book — will a bong smoking superhero have some sympathy for the crack smoker? Should be an interesting series, I want to see what happens, and I hope the Bounce has some backmatter too.

I didn’t mean to be so harsh on what you wrote. You made a lot of good points! But some details you left out/overlooked might cause you to rate the books a little higher.

Travis: Send me an e-mail and I’ll explain a bit.

I don’t disagree with your take on Sex, but I think, as I’m accused of doing, that you might be reading stuff into it because of what Casey likes to write about. I don’t know if the thematic leaps you’re making about Simon’s sex life are actually there – that’s certainly something Casey could be going for, and if it’s what you see, that’s great, but I’m not sure if I’m there yet. As for the Old Man, I’m just getting that in this issue, he seems a bit reinvigorated, so maybe he complains about not being the archenemy anymore, but I wonder if Casey is going to show that he really does like the competition. He seemed more keen about doing his work in this issue than his words led us to believe in the previous issues.

The crime-fighting fantasy, I think, is both of theirs, and that’s why I think comics are such a cool medium. It would be awkward to do that in film, but I think that the comic implies that they’re both having the same fantasy for pretty much the same reasons.

As for The Bounce: You’re right about the cops only seeing The Bounce. I did wonder why someone didn’t spot The Crunch, as they were both on the roof fighting each other.

I didn’t want to give away what The Darling was building, so I didn’t. Damn you and your spoilers!!!! :)

The DA is apparently his brother, which is perfectly in line with some of your thoughts. However, I did notice that some reviewers have specifically said that his brother visits him in the first scene, when that’s his friend Terry. Maybe they couldn’t tell them apart because they’re all white guys? If Casey goes the way you’re thinking, that would be pretty cool. We’ll have to wait and see.

Travis Pelkie

May 26, 2013 at 4:36 pm

The DA is his brother? Wow, I didn’t get the vibe that they were that close in age. Huh.

As you say, comics are supercool because I didn’t necessarily read that scene as something Simon was thinking about, but when you pointed it out, I totally get it. Making full use of the medium — this Casey guy might know what he’s doing!

And yeah, you’re probably right about the Old Man. Now that he HAS to keep up with others, he finds it’s reawakening something in him, and so he’s enjoying things.

Either way, both books are damn good, and I’ll be sticking with them for a while.

Yeah, the only way I knew it was his brother was because some other reviewers mentioned it. Maybe they’re wrong, and it really is his dad. It’s not really addressed in the issue except for his last name, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Even though you seem to like them better than I do, I do trust Casey quite a lot, so I’ll definitely keep buying them. I’m sure I’ll come around!

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